motives for preserving unity
Present and eternal spiritual reality. Genuine Christians truly are one in Christ spiritually. From the moment of conversion, we become spiritually one with Christ (Rom. 6:1–4) and therefore with all other Christians. And in heaven, we will be one as the Father and the Son are one, in direct answer to Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17. This reality gives us the basis for working out lesser issues.
Obedience. Paul commands Christians to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3, NASB).
Witness. Jesus prayed that His followers “may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me” (John 17:23, emphasis added). The journey toward a more perfect unity among Christians in this world is a powerful witness to Christ. Conversely, when Christians argue, it affects their ability to hold forth the word of the gospel (Phil. 2:14–16). Sinful Christian conflict is a bad witness to a watching world.
Wisdom. In every robust conflict among genuine Christians, it should be expected that there are usually elements of truth and wisdom on both sides of the issue. I like to think of the solution to every divisive issue as a recipe with multiple ingredients, and both sides must put in their ingredients for the recipe to be complete.
Growth. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). God uses conflicts to sharpen us, filing off pieces of our sinful selves and honing us for better service.
methods for preserving unity
Love one another. Review the descriptions of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. Start with this: “Love is patient and kind.” Let us remind ourselves continually that we will be spending eternity in heaven together, loving each other perfectly.
Humility. Review the lessons of Philippians 2:1–11. Realize that the conflict is made hotter by the selfishness we all bring to the table. Paul commanded us to consider others better than ourselves and others’ interests as more important than ours.
The Word. All issues must be ultimately resolved by sound exegesis of relevant Scriptures. By “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), we will in all things grow up into Christlike maturity (Eph. 4:15) and discern God’s wisdom for all circumstances.
Romans 14 guidelines. Romans 14 is the handbook for handling debatable issues. One of the key principles is not to judge someone else’s servant (v. 4).
Prayer. Heartfelt prayer when divisions come is vital. Begging God for unity as well as for wisdom, humility, and love between all people involved follows the clear pattern Christ gives us in John 17.